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I’m a plague dissident. I take COVID seriously, but I very often disagree with the policies developed to mitigate COVID. I’m against society wide lockdowns, school closures, and border closures. You can put me in the same camp as other scholars who’ve questioned popular policies such as Martin Kulldorf, John Ioannidis, and Emily Oster who in their own ways critiqued the consensus. Usually, I frame my dissent as a form of policy analysis. One I realized that COVID damage is rare for kids but very common for the elderly, I changed my tune. But I have yet told you about being a plague dissident from the perspective of daily life.
First, like most of the people I mentioned, people really reacted badly to my views. Since I don’t have the profile of Oster or Ioannidis, the magnitude was lower, but still got blow back. Aside from the blow back, becoming a plague dissident was liberating. At the beginning of the epidemic, I was truly panicked. The fact that two relatives were hospitalized and my spouse lost a friend made it all the worse. But once I began to read the basic information about COVID, I relaxed. I was in a low risk group, it’s not spread through surface contact, and it seems to be highly associated with high density locations like gyms and supermarkets. Starting around last June, I began to chill out and treat COVID like I would treat other dangerous, but low probability, events. I’ll exercise some caution and live my life.
Another huge relief was that most colleges went online. While I believe that in person attendance would have been fine, I was quite pleased to go online because I had already been teaching the occasional online course. For me, the switch to online education actually made my life easier. I simply made a series of digital lectures, provided lecture notes, and set up the course websites. I treated all courses, except seminars, as distance learning. I put in the work to make the materials, it’s your job to do the work by my deadlines. Online learning was actually a relief for me.
Even though I had chilled out about my personal exposure to COVID and online learning was pretty straightforward, I understood that I needed to do more in order to get through COVID. The world around me was retreating and all the things that enabled my mental well being disappeared. So I came up with a pretty strict schedule of activities. Brought kids to school, made beds, cleaned dishes. Every day. At the exact same time. Then, I added walking. Every day. Walk, walk, walk. I learned the importance of discipline in an earlier stage of my like when I helped take care of terminally ill family members. Get isolated, lose structure, and you get problems.
Once I had my routine and structure set up, I started doing some forbidden things like going to the mall, eating at restaurants and getting haircuts. When I’d meet people, they seemed horrified to actually meet another person walking around town. Living a normal life last Summer and Fall was like in one of those movies where the hero wakes up and discovers an abandoned America. Empty businesses, quiet streets, and a handful of other survivors who are shocked and happy to meet you.
Then, I totally stopped giving a hoot when I got vaccinated. That was the day the epidemic ended for me. I now treat COVID as I would the flu. Most of the time, low risk but occasionally extremely dangerous. It’s become clear that current COVID mortality is not merely concentrated among high risk groups like the elderly, but it’s extremely concentrated among the unvaccinated. I have empathy for those with underlying conditions, but if you get a disease where vaccination is cheap and easy, that’s on you, not me.
If it’s true that contracting COVID gives you antibodies and a lot of other people are vaccinated, then COVID will ebb and flow for a few more years until it fades to much lower levels, in the same way that the ’57 and ’68 flus claimed so many lives and then just drifted away. In that kind of a world, the plague dissident can just wait, confident that people things may return to some kind of normal.
Please check out my books:
50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter
A theory book you can understand: Theory for the Working Sociologist
The rise of Black Studies: From Black Power to Black Studies
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
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